Mapping Africatown

Nick Tabor and Kern M. Jackson at the Paris Review:

Circa 1969, the writer Albert Murray paid a visit to his hometown on the Alabama Gulf Coast, to report a story for Harper’s. Murray hadn’t lived there since 1935, the year he left for college. During his childhood, elements of heavy industry—sawmills, paper mills, an oil refinery—had always coexisted with wilderness, in the kind of eerily beautiful landscapes that are found only in bayou country. But as an adult, Murray was aghast to see how much industry had encroached. The “fabulous old sawmill-whistle territory, the boy-blue adventure country” of his childhood, he wrote, had been overtaken by a massive paper factory: a “storybook dragon disguised as a wide-sprawling, foul-smelling, smoke-chugging factory.” He imagined that the people who had died during his years away had been “victims of dragon claws.”

When Murray made this visit, he was in his early fifties and and was still at the beginning of his writing career. He hadn’t yet published a book. But over the next several decades, he would go on to write prodigiously, channeling into singular prose his memories of his old neighborhood before the arrival of the dragon.

more here.